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David Ramsey: Ghost of John Fox will haunt Denver Broncos future | Premium

The Ghost of John Fox will haunt the Broncos future.

An elite NFL head coaching candidate will examine the Broncos and see the dangers of working for John Elway, a demanding and impatient team general, and a fan base that shouts in anger after playoff losses.

An elite NFL coaching candidate will be wise enough to be frightened by Fox’s Colorado days. In the early days of 2011, the Broncos hired Fox to resurrect the franchise that had just finished 4-12.

Fox led the Broncos to a 46-18 record and four straight AFC West titles. His 2013 team outscored opponents by 207 points, even more than the mighty 1998 Broncos’ 202-point margin. Fox and the Broncos dominated the Patriots in the AFC 2013 title game.

A little over a year later, Elway fired Fox, who departed after going 38-10 in his final three seasons.

At a party over the weekend, I was talking with several devout Broncos fans about the Fox era and my continued astonishment at his firing.


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The fans weren’t astonished. They fully supported his forced exit.

Fox, they said in unison, lost in the Super Bowl to the Seahawks.

Think about that. Toward the end of a sad, brutal Broncos season, a circle of fans still haven’t forgiven Fox for taking the Broncos to football’s ultimate game and losing.

A wise coaching candidate will look at Denver’s depleted roster and the inflated expectations of fans and management and skip to the next opening.

If a coach arrives in Cleveland in the fall and takes the Browns to a, say, 11-5 record and first-round playoff defeat, that coach will rank as a beloved hero in northern Ohio.

The same accomplishment in Colorado will lead to charges of choking in the playoffs.

I’m not being extreme. Just look at Fox. Elway and Broncos fans expect to win in 2019.

If I’m an elite coaching candidate, I’m looking elsewhere.

As the Broncos stumble toward the finish of a confusing, depressing season, arguments linger about the team’s basic flaw.

Is it coaching? Would a different coach have carried this team to the playoffs, or at least a winning record?

I don’t think so. Vance Joseph’s coaching gravestone for his days with the Broncos will read, “He won 11 games with Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum as his starting quarterbacks.”

Or is it the roster? Was Joseph expected to overachieve with a blah, nothing-special roster?

The 2018 Broncos rank 29th in points scored and 23rd in total defense. The best team in the NFL in 2015 has stumbled to the NFL’s basement in 2018, and what a sad 36 months it’s been.

Joseph is doomed, and I’m not going to launch a crusade to save him. If Fox got dumped by Elway a little over a year after conquering Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots for AFC supremacy and less than a month after finishing 12-4, it’s easy to see Elway soon will dump Joseph, too. No one ever accused Elway of being overburdened with patience.

Losses to the Jets and 49ers doomed Joseph. When Joseph walked off the field after the 49ers loss, he was done.

Joseph soon will leave behind a job with soul-crushing expectations.

Just ask Fox, who performed superlative work with the Broncos.

He won the AFC West with Tim Tebow as his quarterback, which rises to the level of a football miracle. He dominated the AFC in 2013 with a hugely entertaining team that is somehow hugely underrated.

He offers a cautionary tale for perceptive job candidates. It’s always a solid idea to avoid a boss and a fan base who can’t be satisfied.

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